::BUF-HOU"

Since there are no real sports on the horizon, let’s re-live some of the best matchups of the past few months and journey back to a January matchup for some simulated football. DraftKings is offering free-to-play Showdown contests based on these simulations, so let’s see how the games play out the same and different in these simulations.

We’ll kick off the simulated football playoffs with the same matchup that started the real playoffs as Buffalo visits Houston. In the real world, the two teams played an entertaining game in which Buffalo jumped out to an early lead, covered and forced overtime before losing 22-19. Houston advanced to face Kansas City the following week.

How will the simulated rematch go? Let’s take a look at some possible game scripts.

Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.

SIMULATED FOOTBALL STREAM

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Showdown Strategy

Houston

If you’re a Houston fan, this will be a nice chance to get back what your team just traded away since DeAndre Hopkins ($10,800) will still suit up as the top WR for Deshaun Watson ($12,200). You’ll also have a healthy Will Fuller V ($7,200) working across from Nuk, giving Watson some excellent receiving options. Injuries will be turned on, though, which is something else to keep in mind.

In the real game, Watson rallied his team in the second half, running for a touchdown at the end of the third quarter and throwing a touchdown to Carlos Hyde with just under five minutes left in the game. He completed a two-point conversion to DeAndre Hopkins to give Houston a three-point lead before a Buffalo FG as time expired sent the game to overtime.

As a dual-threat, Watson is always a low-risk option and Hopkins comes with obvious upside. Watson should be a stud in the game. He’s not an X-factor, but he’s a “SuperStar” his abilities are Escape Artist, improved scrambling behind the line of scrimmage and Agile Extender, higher chance to evade the first sack by a blitzing DB. He’ll run a reasonable amount, which will be great for his stats, and he’ll be throwing to the two fastest and best weapons in the game in Fuller and Hopkins.

Nuk will have to go head-to-head with Buffalo’s shutdown corner Tre’Davious White, who is excellent and an X-factor, but only a 91 speed. Which may actually make Fuller a great play since he has a 95 speed in the game. Especially with his ability to break big plays and find the end zone, Fuller seems like a great bargain to roster at under $7.5K. Just keep in mind that injuries are on.

X-factor is an important key to note for these matchups. If a player gets an X-factor, they unlock skills that are useful in becoming a more skilled player in the game.

Hopkins is also an X-Factor. When he gets his X, he gets improved catching vs. single coverage in the red zone and better route running and catching on post/corner routes.

However, for a play to get their X, they have to do something. He has to grab three 20-plus yard passes in the air. Very difficult to do in a simulation, but he’s still a viable play because of his speed and awareness rankings.

In the running game, Houston will mix together Carlos Hyde ($4,800) and Duke Johnson ($2,400), who both offer some salary relief. Johnson’s role as a pass-catcher gives him some nice value upside if he’s involved enough in the gameplan. Another peripheral option that can offer some salary relief with upside is Darren Fells ($3,400), who averaged three targets per game over the final four games of the season and had seven regular-season touchdowns.

The Houston DST ($4,400) is also worth a look since it’ll be at full strength. In the real matchup, the unit had three sacks and forced a turnover after forcing 22 turnovers and picking up 31 sacks during the regular season. Ka’imi Fairbairn ($3,800) is also a solid low-cost option that made 20-of-25 field goal attempts in the regular season and 40-of-45 extra-point attempts. If you’re going to go with special teams options, I prefer both options from Houston to the Buffalo offerings.

For Houston to win, it’ll need the big stars to step up. I expect Watson to put on a show with Hopkins and Fuller. There may be some side work for the lesser expensive plays as well, so I’d lean toward Houston if you’re overloading one side against the other.


Buffalo

Buffalo returned to the playoffs for the first time under QB Josh Allen ($11,800) and head coach Sean McDermott. The team finished with 10 wins, its most since 1999 but couldn’t get a first playoff win since 1995. In order to change that result in the simulated game, Allen will need to connect early and often with his top WR John Brown ($9,400), who led the team with 1,060 receiving yards on the season and tied for the team lead with six receiving touchdowns with Cole Beasley ($7,800). Beasley can definitely pile up receptions out of the slot but Brown offers elite speed and can take the top off the defense with big plays.

On the ground, Buffalo started the season relying on veteran Frank Gore ($3,200) but transitioned to more and more of rookie Devin Singletary ($8,400), who proved to be a powerful dual-threat as both a rusher and receiver. Singletary had over 100 yards rushing plus receiving against Houston in this matchup in real life after posting at least that many yards in four of his final eight regular-season matchups as well.

Singletary will probably be the best play, especially early. Buffalo will be run-heavy, and he will carry the mail. Allen will run, but he’s not super fast, so not colossal fantasy upside unless he scores a touchdown. Allen ran for over 500 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season. Despite his struggles with accuracy at times, the man has a cannon in real life and the game, so a big play late when they are inevitably trailing to John Brown could be something to look for in the 4th quarter. Cole Beasley will be his go-to guy underneath. Plus, Beasley has decent speed and quickness and will probably get the red zone targets.

The salary relief options are a little more promising on the Houston side of things, but if you need some options from this side of the ball, Stephen Hauschka ($3,600) has proven to be a reliable kicker and Dawson Knox ($2,200) has had a few good games from his TE spot, especially proving himself a big target in the red zone. Isaiah McKenzie ($1,800) is an interesting punt play as well since he does get occasional looks as the team’s third WR.


The Outcome

The two QBs are deservedly going to get the most attention as Captain’s Picks since both Watson ($18,300 CP) and Allen ($17,700 CP) provide the added element of running the football. Just like in real life scoring in the red zone is hard for most teams. Look for both QBs to scramble for it. Watson will be the far more effective QB doing that because of his star power. Typically, the tight ends will be looked to on 3rd down and in the red zone. Running backs are usually bad at the goal line unless they are exceptionally fast or an absolute hammer, but none of these guys are Derrick Henry.

You could also definitely make the case for the top two big-name WR to get Captain’s Pick attention since Hopkins ($16,200 CP) and Brown ($14,100 CP) both have big-play potential. However, my favorite Captain’s Pick play is Fuller ($10,800 CP) since he leaves plenty of salary space to still fit in both QB’s as flex play if you want and also offers elite upside. If Hopkins is limited by White, Fuller could be heavily targeted and make big plays. On the other side, Singletary ($12,600 CP) can do similar work for Buffalo, but I’ll go with Fuller as my top captain’s pick play.

In this simulated rematch, I think Houston will again emerge with the W, possibly by even a larger margin since Fuller is healthy and in play. A lot went right for Buffalo in this game and they still didn’t pull out the win, so I think it unlikely they pull off the upset in the re-play.

Final Score: Houston 31, Buffalo 14


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on.  Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.